Maths Sparks: Investigating the impact of outreach on pupil’s attitudes towards mathematics
In this article, we examine the impact of participating in a series of mathematics workshops on secondary-school pupils’ attitudes towards mathematics. A six-week program, entitled ‘Maths Sparks’, was run by a team of lecturers and students at a research-intensive university in the Republic of Ireland. The outreach series aimed to promote mathematics to pupils from schools designated as socio-economically disadvantaged (DEIS - Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), who are less likely to study mathematics at higher level than their non-DEIS counterparts (Smyth et al. 2015). Sixty-two pupils participated in the research and data was generated through pre-post questionnaires based on the Fennema-Sherman (1976) framework of Attitudes to Mathematics. Findings suggest that while male students initially had more positive attitudes towards mathematics, there was a narrowing in this gender gap across several factors on the Fennema-Sherman scale as a result of participation in the programme. The most prominent of these features were: ‘Attitudes towards success in mathematics’ and ‘Motivation towards mathematics’. Findings suggest that the construct and delivery of this Mathematics outreach programme, involving undergraduate students and academic staff, may provide a useful structure in benefitting pupils’ attitudes towards mathematics and encouraging their study of the subject.
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